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The Why Comes Before the What

The why means everything in anything you attempt to do but especially in the work of the ministry.  Most people can explain what they do and how they do it but many struggle when they are asked to explain the why.  Simon Sinek says this about the why, “Its goal (Start With Why) is not to give you a course of action.  Its goal is to offer you the cause of action.”  The shepherd boy David said it well when he could not understand the army’s reluctance to go out and face Goliath, “Is there not a cause?” The why is far more important than the how or the what!  You must not underestimate nor devalue the significance of motives!

We make a huge mistake when we raise our children always asking what they plan do when they grow up more than stressing “who” they will become in Christ.  “What” is certainly important but there are a multitude of “whats” that anyone can do for the honor and glory of God.  It is much easier to determine and identify the job and skill sets an individual has to make them successful.  Personal ability and knowing the right “stuff” can be learned by anyone who is interested and willing to be instructed. The harder areas are knowing ourselves and walking with Christ.  Make sure you know who you are in Christ!

We figure out what we want to do and then we also discover how to do what we want to do.  Most people know what they can and cannot do but they can also explain how they do it.  If you are having difficulty with what you want to do with the apps on your phone just hand it to a 12 year old and they will be happy to show you how.  All too often we as a church get so wrapped up in what we do and how we should do it that we forget why we are doing what we are doing.  Hopefully, we do what we do for Christ and how we do it so that He receives all the honor and glory.  Never forget that motives matter!

Church, why do you exist?  Are your values aspirational or are you acting out the values you say you have?  This helps to ensure that we are not just focused on results but being faithful to the One who has called us.  Remember, who you are is far more important to Him than what you do!  It is not, first and foremost, about a job description but rather about a personal daily relationship with Him.  When you really understand why you do what you do that is what gets you up in the morning, gets you through the difficult seasons, and keeps you energized.  We continually are asking, “Lord, am I being who you want me to be?”

Sociologists are telling the church that we have lost at least two generations and points out some common characteristics these generations have.  At best, we know we now live in a postmodern and some say a post-Christian culture.  Tolerance is valued at all costs and there is no absolute truth anymore.  Be who you want to be and decide who you are instead of bowing in submission to the creator who designed you and made you who you are.  Is there not a cause with these lost generations?  Are we not here to tell them why they are here and why Jesus died for them?

We are told by O.S. Hawkins that these lost generations are:

  1. Searching for meaningful relationships!
  2. Seeking immediate gratification!
  3. Wanting something for nothing!
  4. Desiring guilt-free living!
  5. Searching for prosperity!

Only the church holds the answers in the word of God and can meet all five needs of these lost generations.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Why do we do this?  To share the truth of God and allow that truth to set people free.  It is the only truth that can provide true freedom and we have been entrusted with that truth.

  • Why do you study to show yourself approved and faithfully preach the word of God week after week?  Hopefully, it is because you know the power of the gospel and believe with every fiber of your being that it is the only answer for all of man’s problems. You believe that it has the power to break the chains of bondage with which the devil has enslaved so many. Why do you read it every day and meditate on it?  Because you believe it will not change you in a day but when you are in it daily it will change you!
  • Why do you pray and cry out to God? Hopefully, it is because you believe that prayers do make a difference.  You believe that even if it does not change your situation it does change you and causes you to become who He wants you to be.  You know that God inclines His ear toward those who call out to Him.  D.L. Moody said it well, “He who kneels the most, stands the best.”  John Bunyan challenged us to realize, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”  The why is answered in that we seek to lean into His presence longing to know Him closer and better.
  • Why do you share your faith?  Hopefully, it is because you believe in the power of the gospel to save all who believe.  You believe in the why so strongly that you know that someone trusting in Christ as their Lord and Savior does not rely on how great of a salesman you are.  You share His word, you cry out for the Holy Spirit to do His work of regeneration, and you trust in the power of the gospel. Why do we faithfully share the gospel through our lives and with our lips?  Because we understand that is why He saved us!

The why is all about God’s glory and that is what gives us the passion, purpose, and perseverance to continue to be who He called us to be. Then we can prayerfully determine what He wants us to do and how He wants us to do it!

Just Push the Easy Button

There are many programs and promotions today that seem to promise how to double your attendance in a certain amount of time.  They appear to promise amazing results if you will just follow their steps, strategies, and implement their systems.  It seems as if you really do not need God involved at all. As we have become more and more organizational and industrial we are no longer as spiritual and evangelistic.  We must be careful not to write God out of the equation and it should concern us greatly if we can double anything without His involvement in His church.

We do need systems in our churches but we also must remain focused on our absolute dependence on God showing up.  It is not the pastor’s job to gather a crowd, amaze them, and then collect their tithes.  It is his job to help every follower of Christ to discover the power and potential of the Holy Spirit living inside of him or her.  There is no sustainable or truly satisfactory answer apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Colossians 1:27 says, “God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of the mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”

Here are a couple of things to consider as you think of ways to reach more people and disciple them while remaining gospel-driven.

First, do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Sometimes we become so heavenly minded that if we are not careful we are of no earthly good.  Pragmatism is not evil and sinful in and of itself.  We all evaluate certain things we do through what works and what doesn’t work.

Second, make sure that you remain focused on allowing the Holy Spirit of God to guide you and direct you.  Different people and ministries tend to lean toward being either time-driven or being goal-driven.   In our DCPI training we teach, “The time-driven are challenged by deadlines and pre-determined set dates.  In this approach, the calendar rules.  The goal-driven tend to move forward based on reaching their goals and objectives but a Spirit driven approach combines the time and objective driven approaches under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

“This is the best approach.  Galatians 5:25 says it well, ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.’  A Spirit Driven approach looks at the calendar plus the objectives and brings everything before the Lord for His timing. Timeline dates are pre-planned, but are always ‘written in pencil’ so they can be erased and changed based on the Spirit’s leading.  You make plans and decisions only after intense prayer and waiting on the Lord. Everything is subject to revision by the Holy Spirit!”

Third, develop a culture of prayer with an intentional prayer strategy. When you begin to develop a prayer system and ministry think about what these individuals have said about prayer.

Recently on a Sunday morning, a good friend texted the following quotes on prayer to me. They have challenged me and blessed me greatly.

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”  -Charles Spurgeon

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  – Andrew Murray

Here are a few more quotes for your consideration.

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”  – Oswald Chambers

“There is no other activity in life so important as that of prayer. Every other activity depends upon prayer for its best efficiency.”  – M.E. Andross.

“He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” – John Bunyan

“Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet.” – E. M. Bounds

“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring it’s power down to earth.” – Andrew Murray

The truth and testimony of the power of prayer in these followers of Christ continues.

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” – Mother Teresa

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” -C.S. Lewis

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” – Rick Warren

The last three, for now, are a great summation of the importance of prayer.

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” -Oswald Chambers

“He who kneels the most, stands the best.”  -D.L. Moody

Are reading these quotes do you believe your natural inclination is more toward a time-driven approach or a goal-driven approach? Do you thinkthat those working with you will be inclined toward the same approach that you are?

What steps will you take to ensure that your ultimate timing is a Spirit-driven approach?

  • Are you willing to do what is necessary to take the time to hear the Lord and allow Him to direct you in every area of your life and your ministry?
  • Plan a personal prayer retreat to hear from Him.  This is a time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.  It is in this setting that you can then ask Him what He wants you to do in your personal life, your family, and your ministry.

Fight the temptation to just push and play and instead fall prostate and pray!

Mythbusters

There are many church “myths” today that are spoken as if they are factual.  A myth is defined as, “an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true.”  Remember, a myth is called a myth because it has not been proven true.  The problem is that we hear myths, believe them, and then allow them to control our thinking and our behavior.  When churches believe myths rather than the truth it causes fear and can paralyze their ministries.  Things like, “If we build it they will come!” or “All we need is a really cool vision statement and then we will grow!”

In MultiChurchwe learn this about myths.  “Every day we hear platitudes that make promises.  People share common sense wisdom that seems true, but when we push and pull on the idea it doesn’t hold up.  Myths are powerful, controlling ideas that trick us into believing them. They are fascinating . . . and frustrating.  They can also be stubborn.  They grip our hearts and refuse to let go.  One reason for such stubbornness is the powerful influence they exert on our lifestyle, our values, and our dreams.  But as powerful as they seem, in the end myths are not true.”

Myths are described as being very deceptive because they appear to be true and we even act as if they are true but do not forget that they are not true.  Having written on this topic before we have mentioned myths such as thinking that large churches must have compromised the truth.  Size does not dictate or determine how biblically sound a church is.  Some believe that small churches cannot make an impact for God.  It is not how many attend a church that dictates a church’s ability to be used of God and small does not mean inferior.

 1.  The ideal church has one pastor who knows all the members by name.  There is nothing wrong with this and yes God uses many churches that look exactly like this one we just described.  There is a danger here of stereotyping how a church must look and limiting what God may desire to do in a congregation.  Some seem to be convinced that when a church becomes larger that it guarantees it will be cold and unfriendly.  Actually, size does not dictate whether a church is friendly or unfriendly.  You can attend a small church where no one speaks to you or welcomes you.

In the Old Testament Moses was rebuked by his father-in-law for trying to Pastor everyone.  In Exodus 18 Jethro challenged him to establish capable men who would lead multiple congregations among the people of Israel.  They were to divide the people up into groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  Then on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts the church in Jerusalem has grown to over 3000.  So in Acts 6 the church chose additional leaders to spread out the responsibility of caring for the congregation.

Remember, it is not the pastor’s responsibility to care for every member but to make sure that every member is cared for.  Do you think that Peter and the other leaders knew every member by name?  Do you think they knew every member personally?  The point is not size and we must be careful of speaking against something that God is not against!  We love to criticize what is different, mega-churches to house churches, but it they are scripturally sound and reaching people with the Gospel they have a unique place in God’s plan.

2.  A church cannot grow large and maintain its intimacy and closeness.  The truth is that it can but it does take effort and planning.  The healthiest churches are when every part and every member is functioning properly and working together.  Usually, you can be as connected as you want to be because health is when each body part it participating to accomplish ministry together.  We speak often of the great commandment (Matthew 22:37), and the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) but there is also the great charge given by Peter.

I Peter 4:10 says, “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” This great charge must be the goal of every church regardless of its size.  The goal is to involve every believer in ministry by using their gifts to serve others.  The truth is that saved people are supposed to serve people.  The natural instinct is to think of first of yourself and to make sure that your needs are being met.  The truth as opposed to the myth is that it has never been and never will be about selfishness but always has been about serving and sacrifice.

3.  Many churches are convinced they must focus on self-preservation.  This one is tricky because there certainly is some truth to this but all too often this begins the journey down an inwardly focused church.  As you begin to focus on your core you begin to ignore outreach and it is as if your church is experiencing hypothermia and all of the blood is flowing to the core of the body.  You limit the flow of blood to the extremities and begin to sacrifice what seems to be unnecessary at the moment.

God’s economy does not work that way.  Instead, Jesus has challenged us to leave the ninety-nine and pursue the one lost lamb.  Your church must resist the temptation for self-preservation.  Jesus modeled this behavior in the garden before He was arrested as He prayed, “Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me.”  Then He prayed, “Not my will but yours be done.”  Self-preservation was an option that Jesus refused to take.  He resisted and rejected the natural inclination to focus first and foremost on himself.

Maybe the greatest truth to remember that busts all of the other myths is that your church does not exist for you but instead exists for others!

Bigger Does Not Mean Better

Kingdom Purpose

Interestingly enough, researches tell us that half of all churches average 100 or less in Sunday morning attendance. If you average 300 or more then you are in the top 5% of all churches in North America. We have become enamored with thinking that bigger is always better and that is not always the case. In listening to Rick Warren’s latest Purpose Driven Church training he reminds us that, “Bigger is not necessarily better. Better is better!” Better should equal healthy, biblical, and faithfulness to the vision God has given your church!

Is there any correlation between size and strength? Once again, Warren challenges us to realize that there is no correlation between the two. A large church can be very wide but not very deep. It can be focused on the wrong values and be more about the show and numbers. But let’s be cautious about automatically assuming that if a church is large they must be compromising the truth and they certainly must be “a mile wide and an inch deep!” There are large churches, mega-churches, that are preaching the truth and are actively leading their people into an intimate discipleship with Christ.

We know that large churches are not necessarily healthy but neither is a small church. Some people readily admit that they love attending a small church – but why is that? Do they love it being small for the right reasons? Just because a church is small does not mean that it is unhealthy. There are many small churches reaching lost people with the gospel, discipling their people, and making an impact in global missions. Someone has said it well, “Don’t judge the size of the dog in the fight but judge the size of fight in the dog!”

When we think about any church we must think about it fulfilling its purpose. What does God want every one of His churches to accomplish for Him? Warren goes on to say, “If your church will make a great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment then you will be a church with a Great Purpose!” When you look at the Great Commission and the Great Commandment there are five verbs that stress what every church’s purpose is as they pursue glorifying God. Whether a church is big or small these verbs ought to direct the actions of the congregation.

First, Go Make! This is evangelism and every church is to be salt and light. We must have contact with those who are far from God so that we might share the gospel with them. We are called to be His witnesses. Who are you actively building a relationship with so that they may see and know the love of God? Who are you praying for daily so that God the Holy Spirit will convict them and make them aware of their need of a savior?

Second, Baptize them! Next, we are to be actively working on our fellowship with other believers. The church is to be known by the love we have for one another and how we care for one another. We take care of each other and we make sure that others realize they are not in this alone. One benefit of being connected to a small group, Sunday School class, or Bible study is that they can be the “first responders” to those in their group when they need extra attention.

Third, Teach Them! Now we get into discipleship and developing a process that encourages every believer to grow into maturity with Christ. What are those next steps in your church’s discipleship process? Hal Seed uses the analogy of the Sower and the Soil. The next steps are described as Dirt, Root, Trunk, Branch, and Fruit. It is moving disciples from babes in Christ, to maturing in Christ, to mature in Christ, and then reproducing more disciples!

Fourth, Love God! We are to focus on worship! We place Him first because it is all about Him. We have been instructed by our Lord to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Anything or anyone that we love more than God becomes an idol. God will not allow us to have any other gods before Him. He must have the preeminence in our lives and rightly placed on the throne in every area of our lives.

Fifth, Love Your Neighbor! This is demonstrated in the way we minister and serve others. How will you demonstrate the love of God daily in a practical way? We have the opportunity to allow our lights to shine through our good works so they might glorify our Father. This can be done through servant evangelism, random acts of kindness, and figuring out how we can bless those who are far from God.

We are reminded by Rick Warren that these five purposes are modeled in Acts 2, prayed for by Jesus in John 17, and explained by Paul in Ephesians 4. Church health can be seen in the importance of these five purposes. We grow stronger through worship! (This is “loving Christ.”) We grow warmer through fellowship! (This is “Belonging to Christ’s Body” – a church.) We grow deeper through discipleship! (This is “growing in Christ.”) We grow broader through ministry! (This is “serving Christ.”) Also, we grow larger through evangelism! (This is “sharing Christ.”)

These five purposes should “drive” the vision and mission of a church. How well are you loving Christ and worshiping Him? How well are you loving one another and caring for one another? How well are you making disciples who make disciples that make disciples? How well are you serving others and serving the city where you minister? How well are you as a congregation sharing the gospel with those who are in your circles of influence? Begin making intentional plans to fulfill these five purposes.

Healthy churches are driven by these biblical purposes!

Get A Check-Up

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There are many ways to determine health. An annual check up is a part of that process. They listen to your heart, take your blood pressure, and ask you questions to evaluate how you are doing. They draw blood and have it tested to see if there is anything the doctor should know such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and a host of other things. The doctor needs to know if there is something going on that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

We are told as a nation we are probably more unhealthy physically than ever because of our unhealthy lifestyles. It cannot be blamed on a lack of knowledge of the proper diet. Also, the options for exercise are plentiful. Many remain unhealthy because they have chosen not to do anything about what is causing them to be unhealthy.

In Breakout Churches Thom Rainer talks about a church having an “ABC” moment. This is necessary for change to be considered and attempted:

  • Awareness – something needs to change.
  • Belief – God will transform your church.
  • Crisis – you are willing to deal with for the change to occur. Are you blind to the crisis your churches is faceing?

Is being satisfied with being satisfied no longer acceptable? Most will not change their behavior until the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of making the necessary changes! Crisis can occur when you are no longer satisfied with the status quo.

It begins when a church decides that it is no longer acceptable to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results. Is there not a crisis when we see that discipleship in our churches is undefined and God’s mission is unengaged?

Thom Rainer recently shared 10 Warning Signs of Trouble for Churches:

  1. If the pastor does not have adequate time to be in the Word or if he chooses not to do so.
  2. If the members are spending time arguing about how money should be spent.
  3. If none or only a few of the key leaders are actively sharing their faith.
  4. If there is no clear process of discipleship in place, just a plethora of programs and activities.
  5. If corporate prayer is not a major emphasis in the church.
  6. If church members are arguing about worship style or worship times.
  7. If church members expect the paid staff to do most of the ministry, instead of the staff equipping the members to do the work of ministry. (“Why didn’t the pastor visit me in the hospital?”)
  8. If there are ongoing disagreements about matters of the church facilities.
  9. If the church has more meetings than new disciples.
  10. If the leadership of the church does not have a coherent plan for what is taught in small groups and Sunday school classes.

Is there not a crisis in your church when people know what to do but are not doing it? The scary thing is that all too often the knowledgable religious “mature” christians, who are not engaged in the mission of God, are criticizing those who are.

When we say we value something it shows up in our behavior. We do not just talk about it but we act upon it. Values are confirmed by actions, not just by words.  It is not a value when it is a preference but only becomes a true value when it is practiced.

In The Emotionally Healthy Church Peter Scazzero says , “I discovered that the skills to lead into the next phase were not hard to learn. The real difficulty was taking the time, thinking carefully ‘before the Lord,’ summoning the courage to have difficult conversations, and following through all the way.”

There is a crisis when your knowledge base does not lead to an action in your life and in your church!

I LOVE SUNDAYS

Hal Seed is a friend who has a heart to help churches impact their communities for Christ in healthy ways.  This is not a campaign just to have big numbers but rather in order to connect people to small groups and more importantly introduce them to Christ!  Please look into this great campaign!

 

I LOVE SUNDAYS

By Guest Hal Seed:

Why Every Church Ought to Hold an I Love Sundays Campaign:

In 2005, New Song Church averaged 750 in worship. I had spent the previous five years trying to figure out how to break us out of that plateau. A friend suggested we use Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life Campaign. That went so well, I decided to hold a Church-Wide Campaign twice a year.

I LOVE SUNDAYS 2

 

Today, we average 1,750 in attend. Our ministries saw over 2,000 people come to Christ in 2014. We’re on pace for 2,500 salvations this year. 85% of our attenders are in Small Groups. I pastor some of the most committed believers I know. Most of this I attribute to the power of Church-Wide Campaigns. Here’s what they’ve done for us:

 

  1. Attendance Growth

New Song has grown by 133% in the last ten years. All of that growth has come from Church-Wide Campaigns. Every time we hold a Church-Wide Campaign, attendance surges between 7 and 25%.

 

  1. Small Group Participation

Before we started holding semi-annual Campaigns, about 40% of our attenders were in Small Groups. Today, we’re over 80%, because of the drawing power of a Church-Wide Campaign.

 

  1. Personal Growth

When simple truths that are preached on, talked through in a Small Group, and read about personally, the combination accelerates spiritual growth.

 

Why Campaigns Work:

  1. Relevant topics draw unchurched people

Most Americans aren’t against church; they just don’t have a compelling reason to attend. Newcomers are drawn by topics that matter to them and have the potential to change their lives. When you place a book in your people’s hands, it creates excitement and serves as a great inviting tool to bring people to church.

 

  1. Positive Peer Pressure draws people into Small Groups

Humans are social beings. We want to do what everyone else is doing. Leading up to a Church-Wide Campaign, almost everyone is signing for a Small Group so almost everyone else signs up too.

 

  1. Focus accelerates learning

Focus is a powerful thing! Take two forms of light: while the sun can warm you, a laser can cut through steel. Supernatural transformation happens when the pastor preaches on a topic, people go home and read about it, and then they come together with a Small Group to discuss what they’re learning.

 

When should you hold a Campaign?

We’ve discovered that unchurched people are most open to checking out church right after school starts and right after the New Year. So we hold Campaigns every September and every January. The ideal dates to start an I Love Sundays Campaign are on the third Sunday in September, which is National Back-to-Church Sunday and the fourth Sunday in January, which is the Sunday after a three day holiday.

What’s in The I Love Sundays Campaign Kit?

Last year the 26,000 churches who participated in National Back-to-Church Sunday saw a 21% jump in attendance that day. This year, Outreach, Inc. is combining National Back-to-Church Sunday with the I Love Sundays Campaign to create a highly-attractive five-week Church-Wide Campaign experience.

 

The I Love Sundays Campaign comes with

  • Campaign Planning Guide
  • Resource DVD with sermon bumper videos, countdown clock & promotional video
  • 5 customizable sermons
  • Web and social media graphics
  • Small Group Study Kit with Leader’s Guide & Study Guide
  • An I Love Sundays gift book
  • An I Love Sundays T-shirt
  • An I Love Sundays wristband
  • Sample promo tools

Why Hold a Series about Sundays?

  • Time pressure is one of the highest needs of our society. The solution is a rest on Sundays.
  • Pace of life is straining marriages. A key answer is time together on Sundays.
  • Families are being fragmented. Their glue could be Sundays.
  • God ordained the Sabbath as a day to refresh, refuel, and refocus. Without being preachy, I Love Sundays teaches people how to take back their one day to do that, regardless of their current spiritual condition.

 

To learn more about I Love Sundays and get free videos, visit http://www.pastormentor.com/i-love-sundays/. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page.)

 

THE DNA OF A CHURCH

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DNA is defined as the combination of features that makes something what it is. It is what carries our genetic information, reproduces itself, and is the means by which hereditary characteristics pass from one generation to the next. This major component of chromosomes determines a person’s hair and eye color along with many other features. We have all heard remarks like, “Wow, that apple didn’t fall very far from the tree” or “You could never deny that one” when a child looks a lot like one of their parents. God’s children should resemble Him!

Remember, anything healthy reproduces so what will your church’s children and grandchildren look like? In Organic Leadership, Neal Cole defines the DNA of a church as:

  • Divine truth
  • Nurturing relationships
  • Apostolic mission.

This definition is simple, uncluttered, and powerful. It promotes and produces a mindset of an always expanding and multiplying ministry led by the Spirit of God. DNA reminds us daily of our heritage and of what is most important to us. DNA determines who we are and who we are should determine what we do.

Even the tiniest of cells must exhibit DNA that is healthy and whole. A church will remain strong, healthy, and reproduce healthy children as long as its DNA is maintained. No matter what size a church is, it should have the Lord’s DNA because it belongs to Him, it is to glorify Him, and it should look like Him. Rick Warren has said, “Church size never determines significance! No airplane pilot thinks 15 passengers are insignificant!” The question is, “What kind of disciple should we be producing if our church has the right kind of DNA?”

The lowest common denominator in the church is the disciple. The DNA of the church will be determined by the DNA of the disciples that are being produced. What are the disciples in your church focused on the most? What takes up most of their time? How would your church describe a mature follower of Christ? Every church and every follower of Christ is commanded to make disciples. That is supposed to be who we are and what we do, but is it? Fact: unless making disciples is in the DNA of your church, world evangelism is a fantasy.

Neal Cole goes on to say, “If your ministry is struggling without leaders, don’t reevaluate your leadership program. Reevaluate your disciple making system.” DNA becomes infected and mutant when are churches become consumed with nonbiblical traditions. These traditions do not contradict the Bible but neither are they mandated or necessarily mentioned in the scriptures. Traditions such as singing happy birthday in the service, Sunday School, singing the great hymns of the faith, the way we take an offering, the pastor being at every surgery, and a host of others.

Traditions can be good or bad. They become wrong and dangerous when they are elevated to being equal or sometimes even above scripture. When this happens that church’s DNA is weakened and they begin producing anemic disciples. They stay busy with all kinds of activities and programs but the time has come for churches to quit focusing on matters that the Bible is silent on and begin again to obey what God has clearly commanded, making disciples. Don’t allow “good things” to become the enemy of what is best.

Spiritual maturity is not how much we know but what we are doing with what we know. The real issue is not where your church meets but how it operates. The New Testament norm for every believer and every church is to multiply. J. D. Payne says it this way, “A healthy ecclesiology advocates that your church is to grow and multiply itself throughout the world.” Every disciple is responsible for his spiritual walk and every disciple is responsible to make disciples. Where does it begin? By having the DNA of a disciple maker, Jesus!

The DNA of a healthy church requires that a mature disciple be defined as one who is making disciples that are making disciples!

DON’T FUMBLE THE HANDOFF

The race was about to begin and the excitement in the air was energizing.  My son Benjamin’s high school’s 4×100 relay team had qualified for state and was expected to contend for the Oklahoma 4A state title.  The gun sounded and they were off.  We stood up as my son’s team mate reached to him for the all important passing of the baton.  Then one of the greatest fears in any relay race took place – they fumbled the handoff.  It had not happened all year, why now? 

In a second their chances of advancing to the finals were over.  Unfulfilled expectations overwhelmed them because of one mishandled handoff.  The disappointment was real because they knew they were fast enough to make the finals and maybe even win but we would never know because they had not been able to pass the baton.  This story is painfully true to my family but we all survived and our lives moved forward.

Fumbling a handoff in a relay race has no eternal consequences but Christians are running a race that does matter in eternity.  We are to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus but what about the other runners in the race?  What happens when the time comes for us to pass the baton of ministry to someone else?  Are we fumbling the baton of leadership development?  Have many dropped out of the race because we fumbled the handoff?  Discipleship is the starting point, the sustaining practice, and the key to lasting impact.   

The only way to ensure the proper handoff of ministry is to continually be reproducing leaders in our churches.  The most important and crucial element in passing the baton is discipleship and disciple making.  Always moving forward and always reproducing through an easily reproducible process.  Thom Rainer has rightfully observed that, “Congested churches and stagnant believers are the antithesis of God’s plan.”  Could this explain why it is estimated that 90% of those attending on Sunday’s are passive in their walk with the Lord and the church?

The quality of a church’s leadership is directly related to the quality of its discipleship.  If we do not have a clear discipleship process then we should not be surprised when there is a shortage of leaders.  Neil Cole has said, “If you can’t reproduce disciples, you can’t reproduce leaders.  If you can’t reproduce leaders, you can’t reproduce churches.  If you can’t reproduce churches, you can’t reproduce movements.”  The lack of leadership development creates a bottleneck in the church which has been created by a lack of making disciples that make disciples.

In the book From Followers to Leaders Robert Logan and Tara Miller give a highly reproducible model of leadership development that they call the I/You approach. 

Stage 1:  I do the task and you watch me. 

Stage 2: I do the task and you assist me. 

Stage 3: You do the task and I assist you. 

Stage 4: You do the task and I watch you. 

Stage 5: You do the task and someone else watches you. 

Now that is passing the baton!   We must dedicate ourselves to the most strategic activity that any church can engage in; making disciples.  There will not be any kind of significant, lasting, or sustainable movement of church planting or church revitalization/renewal without meaningful discipleship.  It is the very task that Jesus focused His efforts on and invested most of His time and energy.  Alan Hirsch has said it well, “Only to the extent that we can develop self-initiating, reproducing, fully devoted disciples can we hope to get the task of Jesus’ mission done!”

Don’t fumble the handoff!

5 Warning Signs for Your Church

Heartbeat

     There are many examples of people who thought they were healthy but when they visited the doctor it was the exact opposite.  To be sick and not know it is a very dangerous situation.  Can a church be sick and not know it?  Are there some warning signs a church should be aware of that show whether they are healthy or not?   Thom Rainer on his blog said this, “I’ve seen it countless times. My team would go into a church for a consultation, and we would begin interviewing church members. We would hear from many of the congregants that their church was healthy and thriving. Then we would see the warning signs. And we would begin to fear that the apparently healthy body was not really healthy at all.  The church was sick. Some of the churches were really sick.” 

     Revelation 3:17 says, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”  John McArthur says this in his commentary, “The Laodiceans’ lukewarmness was compounded by their self-deception.  Christ rebuked them for their disastrously inaccurate self-assessment.”  How many churches are evaluating their “spiritual health” by the wrong things?  Big buildings, multiple programs, large offerings, and being busy every night of the week does not in itself equal spiritual health.

     Thom Rainer went on to say, “What were some of the warning signs my team saw? Though the list is not exhaustive, these five issues were common. Some of the churches had one or two on the list; some had all five.” 

  1. The church has few outwardly focused ministries. Most of the budget dollars in the church are spent on the desires and comforts of church members. The ministry staff spends most of its time taking care of members, with little time to reach out and minister to the community the church is supposed to serve.
  2. The dropout rate is increasing. Members are leaving for other churches in the community, or they are leaving the local church completely. A common exit interview theme we heard was a lack of deep biblical teaching and preaching in the church. 
  3. The church is experiencing conflict over issues of budgets and building. When the focus of church members becomes how the facilities and money can meet their preferences, church health is clearly on the wane. 
  4. Corporate prayer is minimized. If the church makes prayer a low priority, it makes God a low priority. 
  5. The pastor has become a chaplain. The church members view the pastor as their personal chaplain, expecting him to be on call for their needs and preferences. When he doesn’t make a visit at the expected time, or when he doesn’t show up for the Bible class fellowship, he receives criticism. In not a few cases, the pastor has lost his job at that church because he was not omnipresent for the church members.

     The problem is that many church activities are more self-gratifying than they are missional.  Have we become more concerned about great comfort than we are the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?     Fanaticism has been defined as redoubling one’s effort after one’s aim has been forgotten.  When we enter our nice buildings with all the trimmings it is easy to forget about the ugliness and brokenness we were saved out of.  We must come back to the mission of the church which is to share the gospel with all people so that they might know the Jesus we know.  It is broken people like us being used by God to reach the broken people of our communities. 

     The question is not are we ok with our church but is Jesus pleased with His church?  Spiritual health will suffer greatly and many churches will die slow agonizing deaths if we continue to be more focused on our church member entitlements than our enlistment to service in the army of God.  Maybe this statistic best describes how unhealthy we have become: “1% of all Christians are actually producing reproducing disciples.”

Churches Should Thrive Not Just Survive

Thrive

     “A year from now you will wish you had started today!”  That quote by Karen Lamb is so true and we must remember that we oftentimes overestimate what we can do in a year but underestimate what we can accomplish in five years.  The reality is, we have to start somewhere!  Helen Keller put it this way, “I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

     How could our churches be different a year, five years, or even ten years from today?  Every church finds itself where it either needs to be refreshed, restored, renewed, revitalized, or maybe even rebirthed!  Focusing on revitalization refers to a recapturing of the mission of God as seen in scripture.  There are two questions every church must ask on a regular basis.  First, what is our purpose?  The second question is, how are we doing in fulfilling our purpose?

     Our mission is what God has called every church to do; fulfill His Great Commission for His glory.  A church’s vision is how He wants your church to fulfill that mission.  Vision is the passion we have in fulfilling our mission.  Revitalization could begin in our churches when we are willing to repent of our lack of passion to share the gospel in our communities.  Ken Priddy says, “You evangelize to revitalize; you don’t revitalize to evangelize!”  Revitalization begins when the ministry emphasis shifts from the membership to the community.”

     Vision is not what you want for your church but rather what God wants for your church.  We must first get a vision of God before we will ever get a vision from God.  God’s plan for your church is to thrive, not just survive.  Ten years from now will your church be thriving or surviving?  Do you really believe that God has great things in store for your church?  Vision is simply a description of hope for the future.  Someone has said there are two kinds of churches; problem-based and possibility based.  Which are you? 

     Some churches worry too much about chaos while others are overly focused on control.  Chaos can create a train wreck but control can create paralysis.  Here is something to think about; “A slow death by paralysis isn’t nearly as gruesome as a train wreck.  But death is death!”  Many churches are not even aware that they are headed toward total paralysis because slow death works on us with a symptomless deception.

     Every church that wants to thrive needs to answer these questions biblically.  Revitalization is a spiritual issue. 

  1. Who are you?  This is your opportunity to clearly articulate the very foundational truths of why you exist.
  2. What do you do?  This details your vision which describes your plans of how your church will carry out God’s mission.  Here are five distinguishing marks of a church: A passion for Jesus; Confronting Idols; Biblical Teaching; Advancing in Discipleship; & Investing in the Culture.  These marks were written out by Jonathan Edwards and taken from the scriptures.  You see church revitalization is a return to the mission of God as seen in scripture.
  3. Where do you do this?  Your context is unique and unlike anyone else.  The temptation is to adopt what some other “successful” church is doing but be careful to adapt the principles to your context. 
  4. How will you carry out God’s mission?  The biblical mandate is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  Our churches will have a much greater impact when we are not only focused on gathering but also on scattering and taking Christ to people where they are.
  5. Why do you do what you do?  Churches begin the revitalization process when they do everything for the glory of God.  Your church does not belong to you, it belongs to Him!  So every church must ask, “Is Jesus pleased with our church?”

     Healthy churches are willing to do whatever it takes to be the church God called them to be!